It turns out that dreams can become a vehicle to hear God’s voice.  

As we study the bible, we find that there are over two hundred instances of recorded dreams important to salvation history.  In the Old Testament, Elihu suggests God may be speaking to Job in a dream (Job 33:14-15).   In the book of Numbers, we find that God can use dreams in a prophetic ministry: “when a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams” (Numbers 12:6).  At the time of Pentecost, Luke links the possibility of visions and dreams to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-19).    Beyond the apostolic age, earlier Christians from the time of Irenaeus, Origen, and Augustine to reformed saints such as Wesley all reference how God guided them through dreams.  

In modern science, twentieth century psychologists such as Freud and Jung gave us an understanding of how dreams can reveal the wisdom and insight of the unconscious.   Dreams can become not only a source of wisdom and platform for problem solving but could signal a time for reconciliation or healing.   We can also get in touch with our shadow self and confront those hurtful areas in our lives that we have earlier suppressed; if left unaddressed, these suppressed hurts may take hold on us in ways that we do not realize and make us bondage.  By taking the time to reflect on our dreams, and bring out those suppressed memories to God, will help us glance into the structures of our soul. Our shadow self, which often includes a hurting inner child, is then brought to God who can gently give us guidance or inner healing.

How do we go about discerning what God may be telling us in our dreams?

Discerning God’s voice in dreams  

First, dreams can become complicated, illusive, confusing, and even disconcerting.   If there are some experiences or significant trauma that has resulted in critical psychological issues that are surfacing in our dreams, therapy or other forms of medical attention may be required.   However, for most of us who wake up with a vivid memory of a dream and wonder what it means or prompts us to ask whether God is speaking to us, we can still bring our dream forward to God in prayer and meditation.   When we make opportunities for prayer, Scripture study and reflections on questions raised to us by our dream, we may find God trying to tell us something.   Here is one method for taking your dreams to God.  

Step #1.  Immediate upon waking, create the following dream report. [1]

  • Title – Give your dream a title.
  • The story – In a paragraph, write out what you had dreamed about.  Don’t over-analyze or worry about making it perfect.   Try and capture the gist of your dream.
  • Feelings and mood – List out a few feelings that resonate strongly with you, your mood or atmosphere surroundings. 
  • Theme – What is the predominate or main theme?
  • Questions raised – What are some of the questions raised to you about your dream?   Example, why did this happen?    Who did this person represent? 

Step #2.   Decide on a course of meditation, prayer method or who you would like to talk to you about it.    Here, we will use dream divina.[2]

  • Pick a time where you can be with no distractions.  Invite the Holy Spirit in and remain silent for about a minute.
  • Read the story you have wrote above slowly and listen for a word or image that captures your attention.   Do not labour, the first or strongest word or image that comes to mind is often where you will stop.    Remain silent for about a minute as you ponder that word or image. 
  • Read again the story that you wrote and engage in association by asking yourself:  what you are feeling both in your body and emotions?  Does this feeling connect with an issue in my life?   If nothing connects, then ask the dream what purpose have you shown up right now?  Remain silent for about a minute while contemplating these questions.
  • Read again and pray. Ask what will I do?  How will I be?  How am I to live?   This is your time to invite Jesus Christ in to help answer some of these questions.   Have a conversation with Jesus.
  • Journal your thoughts and consider sharing this with a soul friend.  

Did I hear from God?

If you feel called to an action, it will also become important to discern the spirits at work.  This becomes a matter of discernment.  The following list of questions is a sample of what we can ponder:  do the thoughts come with actions that draw me closer to God, or farther away from God?   Are my actions congruent or deviant from that of scripture?   God will never lead you away from Himself, into sin, nor leave you feeling anxiety, condemnation, guilt or fear.   

Discerning can also be lengthy process, and sometimes complicated, and it could take more prayer, Scripture study or time with God. Talking to a trusted soul friend to journey alongside of you to co-discern what God may be saying in your dreams can also bear fruit.    Remember that God’s work is gentle, kind and patient.

[1] David Benner, Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel, (Grand Rapids: Mich.: Baker Books, 1998).  

[2] Merrill Hawkins, “Dream Divina: The Practice of Lectio Divina for Dreams and Waking Life,” Presence 24, no. 2 (June 2018): 31–35.

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